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Former pastor dies in car accident, prayer service to be held Wednesday.


Harry Kelley leans in for a hug as his partner, the Reverend Wayne Nicholson, works on a weaving project in their Mount Pleasant home on Nov. 15, 2012. Kelley uses a spinning wheel to spin yarn, which Nicholson then uses to create scarves, blankets, rugs, and other items. The two can often be found sitting in their respective corners, working and chatting for hours.

The Rev. Wayne Nicholson, a retired priest at St. John's Episcopal Church in Mount Pleasant, died Monday, June 10 from injuries sustained in a car accident.

According to The Morning Sun, Nicholson and his husband, Harry, were injured last week when their car was rear-ended in Mississippi. 

The Rev. Sr. Diane Stier posted a statement about the news on the St. John's Episcopal Church website. 

"Wayne was a priest and brother, friend and confidant, advisor and fun-lover," she wrote. "I am certain that Wayne is wrapping us all in his long arms even as I write this."

A prayer service will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 12 at St. John's Episcopal Church, located at 206 W Maple St. in Mount Pleasant. There will be a funeral at St. John's once Harry, who was also injured in the accident, can travel.

Nicholson served as a priest at St. John's Episcopal Church in Mount Pleasant for 12 years. In 2018, he retired and moved to Mississippi with his husband.

According to a Central Michigan Life article from 2014, Nicholson initially wanted to become a priest in California in 1976, but was rejected because he was gay. He began to struggle with drug addiction, but eventually returned to the church in 1994. He was ordained as a priest in 2002 at a church in upstate New York, where he stayed for four years before moving to Mount Pleasant.

Wayne and Harry met in New York in 2005 and decided they wanted a change of pace. They chose Mount Pleasant because of its progressive and relaxed culture. Nicholson said he appreciated how quickly he and Harry were accepted by St. Johns.

The couple married in Michigan in 2008 and traveled to Washington in 2014 to legally exchange vows. Exactly one year later, on June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage with its Obergefell v. Hodges decision. Nicholson told CM Life it was an unexpected and very exciting anniversary present.

Nicholson was heavily involved in the Mount Pleasant community. He spoke at events like March for Our Lives in 2018 and held counseling sessions for non-members of the church related to drug addiction and mental illness. He also wrote columns for the religion page of The Morning Sun.

"My experience as a gay man and a recovering alcoholic inform my spiritual life, but also how I relate to those going through those issues," Nicholson said in 2014. "I've helped a lot of kids who are feeling left out, marginal or unaccepted for who they are."